I was sitting on the expensive sofa in my rickety yet expensive Covid-cottage on the Gingham Coast of Connecticut. It's an area so rarefied Lily Pulitzer skirts qualify as gang clothing and where the local high school sports teams are called the "Cucumber Sandwiches."
My red iPhone rang. The one that only clients call me on. And then, only when they're in trouble, facing a dire emergency or have a Series D fundraising deck to pull together.
"George," one of my larger clients barked. In between yelps you could hear heavy breathing. He sounded like a cocker-spaniel in a thunderstorm.
"George," he said, "that copy we went over on Wednesday..."
"That copy you said was dead, solid perfect," I reminded him.
"Yes, that copy," he breathlessed. "I need you to re-look at it."
"Re-look at it?" I said.
"Yes." Stealing a joke from an old Preston Sturges movie, his breath was coming in short pants. "It needs a little love," he repeated. "I need you to take it to the next level."
I unplugged my brand-new Mac with the new M1 MaxPro chip. It's a computer so fast it allows me to type copy before I even get an assignment. I walked upstairs away from the suburban cacophony of every middle-aged paunch within 200 yards of my shack power-washing his deck. Up here on the Gingham Coast they clean their floors, and dirty the air and call it a wash.
"I'm on another level now," I shouted into my red client iPhone.
"Good," my client said. Like an expensive AI system that can discern anxiety in vocal patterns, I could tell his tremolo had steadied. "You're on another level," he asked.
"Yes," I explained. "I went upstairs. I'm on a completely another level."
"Thank god," my client said. "I appreciate that. But can you take it to yet another level? This Series D meeting is big."
"Give me a second," I said with solicitude. I removed a cedar square from one of our closets and pulled down a set of stairs and climbed into our cramped attic. "I'm on another level now," I reassured him. "I'm up in the attic. Now, what's wrong with my copy."
"I didn't say anything was wrong with it," my client said. "I merely said 'I need you to take it to another level.'"
"I have," I infarcted.
"OK, thanks, George. That's why I love working with you. You're always willing to take things to another level."
"I do my level-best," I answered. And I hung up the phone.